Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Wave to Gravity

The famous analyst Carl Jung was fascinated by the possibilities of synchronicity.  I share his excitement when things seem to line up just perfectly, out of all rationality, to make way for something wonderful.  Today, because Remke’s was out of my Fage Yogurt last night, I had to stop off at Kroger this morning to replenish my supply.  It was a bit of dust that had stuck in my i-Phone’s on/off switch that caused me to miss all incoming calls yesterday and took me past Kroger on the way to the Verizon store to address the problem.  In the Nature aisle I met a friend.  If we had chatted much longer, or even a mite less, I would have missed the most exciting announcement I had ever heard on Public Radio:

“The discovery of gravity as a waveform,
emitting from the collision of two black holes.”

That byte of knowledge had won the Pulitzer!  It would become the basis of thought experiments, fodder for human’s creative imagination for the rest of our lives.  Learning that gives me great joy!

As a teen on a church sponsored retreat and tucked into my cot one night, I began humming. The array of bare coiled springs under the mattress hummed back, but only when I hummed certain notes.  Later I asked my dad why.  He explained the concept of sympathetic resonance specific to the precise (tuned) frequency of that set of springs.  He explained that all flexible structures are capable of bending in response to external pressure, then returning to a relaxed state.  When subjected to a discrete frequency of vibration, a structure will attempt to flex and relax at that frequency, and at a proportional amplitude; the stronger the signal, the stronger the responding vibration.

The physical world is amazing, this case in point being the simple coiled set of springs supporting my camper’s mattress.   Everywhere I looked there were wonderful things to learn about.  In this case, the resonant frequency was determined by the composition, shape, and gauge of the spring wire, by the form and additive effect of the coils, by the fixed locations and terminations of the individual elements and by the nature of the couplings at the points of fixation. Not to be ignored were the length, width, and breadth of the integrated construct.  I have a suspicion that my presence, a weighted shape pre-loading the system, had an implication, but I hesitate, not wanting to spoil what I have understood as a lovely reality by introducing yet another complexity to obfuscate clarity of insight.  (Keep it simple, Stupid!)

In 1955, while being interviewed for a possible university scholarship, I explained that my most serious educational goal was to invent anti-gravity.  The money came through, along with an acceptance letter from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon).   Waveforms permeate the universe, presenting a panoply of amazements.  Ever since I met the electromagnetic spectrum it has held a special fascination for me, but gravity was a problem.  It exists, but where can it be represented in our thought?

Surely not on the electromagnetic spectrum, as is light, that presents as a wave but is also particulate, to the puzzlement of scientists the world around.  Now we can likewise see gravity as a waveform.  Like two precisely opposing frequencies of sound or light input to a single receiver, they will cancel each other out, and darkness or silence will result.

Bose uses this trick with sound waves to make their noise cancelling headphones.   Any two differing frequencies input to a receiver will provide a beat frequency that can be utilized, as in a Theremin, a more than way-cool musical instrument.  It is a rectangular electronic box that sprouts two radio-antennae, one vertical, one horizontal.

The player faces the instrument, addressing it with upraised hands.  The trembling right hand produces melody, depending on its distance from the antenna, adding texture and richness with its sensual vibration.  The left is less difficult; it merely controls the volume of the sonorous output from the right frequency-controlling vertical antenna.  The only limitation to artistic expression is the ability of mind to imagine and hands to create and control the flow of the musical output.

The Theremin can sound like just about anything analog.  It can howl like a wolf, shriek like a banshee, or mimic a ghost.  It can even convincingly imitate a passionate violin, viola, or cello.  What can we do with gravity, now that we know it to be a wave?  Have I finally found my illusive anti-gravity?

My point, however illusive, is that if Remke’s had filled their stock of Fage yogurt, I would have missed out on a life altering tidbit of science, and I wouldn’t be here today blathering about pairs of colliding black holes, offset or in opposition, causing perturbations of gravity in the universe.  Is that synchronicity?


I was part of the first tide of fearful but courageous young women who beat and broke bodies and brains against the irresistible menstrual flood wall of male science.  Now women take it as a given that they are welcomed and often even appreciated.  It’s tempting to resent them for giving little credit to us who paved the way for those who followed.  I do resist that temptation and feel only pride and happiness in their achievements.  That lovely confidence they claim as their natural right, makes me a retrospective winner in my own right.  Sounds like resonance to me, a gravitas subject.

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Dale Warren Taylor

Dale called last night at ten, and we were still talking after one.  I marvel that we are so satisfactorily bridging the generation gap, but wonder how he will get out of bed and face tomorrow.  He is a rural mail carrier in the marginally civilized portion of West (by-God) Virginia, his routes taking him into dark hollows that see him as their most important link with civilization.  Born in 1958, he is now pushing sixty, as husband, father, and grandfather.  When, as I often do, I reduce a person to a word, my son Dale is integrity.   Some chalk that up to stubbornness; I see it as having the courage to be real.  Dale is who and what he is, no more, no less.  His equilibrium is linked to his inner ballast; he doesn’t do courtesy or propriety, but his own brand of kindness and honesty turn him out to be a true gentleman.

Dale Warren Taylor is my eldest, agreed by his siblings to be the smartest.  I don’t have an opinion on that score; to me they are all three, Dale, Lane, and Kurt, equally fantabulous.  The Kelsey Martin gene seems to be dominant, be that for good or for ill.  His knowledge as an autodidact does appear encyclopedic, due no doubt to his obsession with the science and history channels, crossword puzzles and Scrabble.  The New York Times puzzle always loses expeditiously to Dale’s pen.  During one frightening visit, our play demonstrated that I could no longer beat Dale at Scrabble, ever.  I must be losing it, or he has achieved a competitive level I can’t match.  Time will tell.

Maybe with his three hour call to his mom he is working off a bit of guilt since for the first time ever he forgot my birthday card.  I was anticipating its arrival with birthday girl glee, but the mailbox remains stubbornly empty or trashed with commerce.  No wonderful card with just the right sentiment, the perfect words to say he loves me for my own true self, not for having given up all to bake cookies and live vicariously through achieving children.  It must take a lot of reading to weed out the trite and select that just-rightness versified.  I do prize him for that.  He loves his mother, as do all three in their own uniquely tormented ways.  I was far from being a perfect mother, having my own agenda which didn’t make of raising a passel of kids priority one.  They each have their own unique rage which they hang on the horns of my own, complementary dilemmas, theirs and mine still snorting and pawing the ground.

If…if only…if only I had done better, they could love me without having to work so hard at it.  I should have been an everywoman.  That would have made it right.  No!  Not that again.  That is a well-rutted track that I have trod a million times and more, looking for the perfection that eludes and runs away laughing in its banshee voice, bouncing off trees and rocks until it damps to the soft resonance of the swamp and gets tangled in spikes of cattail reeds.  There it dies, as well it should.  R.I.P.  “Rrrrrip, rrrrrip, rrrrrip,” agree the frogs.

This is a story that can be told, that should be told, that must be told.  Truth is a fine blanket that covers all with understanding and forgiveness once all is known.  One day I’ll get around to it.

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Intimations of Solitude


I wait in solitude.

I breathe in.

I breathe out.

All I really have to do

is accompany my days.

They swirl like skirted pleats of time.

They move like silent friends

into and out of my rooms,

warmed by my fire,

cooled by the night,

attending my being,

They are my days,

My lovely days,

Ever, all, and only mine.


Night calms and shelters sleep.

It sits, dark, upon my bed and waits.

Dream finds and covers me.

I open to his presence,

a blossoming of time and thought.

His tenderness compels.

I open first to him, then to the All.

We soar on sparkling tides of mind,

sifting quarks and streaming galaxies,

swirling eddies in our wake.

Then we rest and wait.

The next and last great thing will be

to thank this grand old carcass

for its days and lay it down,

wrapped in gentle folds of time

on the doorstep to the infinite.


But not just yet.


For crouched beyond the ragged rim of dawn

Tomorrow waits.

My name is slick upon his tongue,

My face a mirror to his vision.

The galaxies that comprise my form

Still resonate with pulse and blood.

When tomorrow comes we laugh!

When tomorrow comes we dance!

When tomorrow comes we fly!

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Antidote to Narcissism

Two hundred thousand years or so ago an isolated group of primates evolved into a species that became aware of itself. Like a child peering into a looking glass, it was fascinated by what it saw looking back from still water. “That is me,” it marveled. “I am.” It was the discovery of the ages, the beginning of a complexity that is still being unraveled to this very day, sitting together in a special place, performing certain actions together in shared awe and wonderment.

Until that first excursion into fascination with the narcissistic self, our natural animal instincts where directed outward: pure erotic delight in the passionate other, instinctual sacrifice of self as mother (and later claiming authorship of the sperm as father), in joined adoration of child; numinous enchantment with perceived beauty, expressed as art. But that primitive discovery of the self as prepossessing all other amazements stands as the actual original sin, tales of munching apples in mythical gardens at the instigation of wily serpents notwithstanding. As homo-sapiens-sapiens, we knew at some deep level that fascination with one’s self was wrong. It flew in the face of two hundred million years of evolution becoming mammals. Suckling one’s child creates love, teaches that it is important to value another beyond one’s own selfish needs, even to the death. Who would not die to save one’s child?

Directing love outward, subsuming all-consuming self-involvement, as a purposeful endeavor, created worship. We gathered together, for in numbers there is strength, and acknowledged our foolish ways. Does this suggest we invented God? No. He was there all along, waiting for us to awaken to Him and accept the love that waited for us as own His magnum opus. The magnificent arithmetic, the algorithms of Truth that pre-existed all bangs, big or small, were there waiting for us to name it “God.” Our salvation lay in discovery that it is not we who matter, but God and caring for His creation.

Worship is a together happening; Prayer can be solitary, but in worship we bare our narcissistic selves to each other and to God. Primitive worship featured song, dance, and visual art. These summoned spirit, not so much from far, far away, but from within. Painting on cave walls, the art of the ancients, captured the power of symbol. Fire leapt as embodiment of life and spirit. Sacrifice, an early attempt to negotiate with the divine, was once part of worship, but now passing the plate replaces ritualistic blood-letting. Drumming, echoing beat of heart, combined with ululation celebrating breath, generated excitement, more than any crass modern football contest.

Language, a late arrival, provided elegant tools to express “a love so amazing, so divine, it demands my soul, my life, my all.” Of all the fruits of carbon based life on this planet, only we, homo-sapiens-sapiens, know and love God. In our worship, we honor and celebrate that miracle. Methodism, an off-shoot of the Christian Triune understanding of God, especially honors the place of music in liturgy, thanks to John Wesley its founder. The world-around, similar mythologies know God as incarnate. Methodist hymnody shares that musical art with a great many Christian sects, describing our devotion to a savior-God, not as fact but as Truth. For example:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. (Watts)

Worship as expression of such devotion, away from self, toward God, is surely an effective antidote to the self-absorption that characterizes narcissism. River Road United Methodist Church knows how to worship. We try hard. Appealing to the various sensibilities of our laity, our Worship Committee and Ministerial Staff conjur multiple worship settings. Sundays at 8:30 the Chapel holds an intimate gathering, sharing communion every week. At 9:30 in the Fellowship Hall a contemporary multi-media service featuring a live band and professional soloists rattle the walls and assault the hearing of those not inured to rock concerts. Phillip Tickle leads the excitement of the fracas with Eric Price behind the curtain tweaking buttons and levers. Finally the stately 11:00 service targets those who remember and appreciate the solemnity and classical beauty of traditional worship. Rev. Fran Cooper, our Lead Pastor, weaves language into an elegance that speaks Truth to all three services. Roger Dowdy musically masterminds the 11:30 featuring choral and instrumental ensembles.

Lydia Morriss, Chair of the Worship Committee, used to caring for others as a Physical Therapist, is a natural to lead the creative cohort that structures all of RRUMC worship. Lydia, a thirty-year member, was a cradle Baptist, a familiar of tent-revivals and altar-calls. The first time the Holy Spirit spoke to her, it led her down the aisle to fall on her knees, while “Just As I Am” played a tender accompaniment. Her relationship with God is a personal one. She recalls her first Christmas service as the one responsible: “An altar candle just wouldn’t light in spite of holding enough oil. Anxiety choked me. I was terrified, feeling not just a little resentment at being asked to do more than my share. Then a light went on in my head. How could I possibly resent doing anything for Jesus? I prayed, Get a grip! It’s not about my perfect details. Just relax and be a joyful servant. Then the flame caught.” She had cracked her nut of wisdom: “Worship is about God, not about me.”

__Dorothy Jeanette Martin

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He died. He wasn’t supposed to do that. I had counted on his being there, a living part of a painful past, a bookmark holding, marking, stopping time at the place where I stopped and everything else went on.

* * * * *

He had become a great man in his backwater town, a veteran, wounded, leg amputated below the knee, his hand mangled when an aircraft tractor’s wheel dipped into an open man-hole and slid off the carrier deck into a quiet harbor mooring. Other than a mighty splash, there were no military heroics involved. At 2AM an officer had wanted a bar of soap and ordered a PFC to go get it. Jim Taylor, the nearest swabbie available, shook off sleep, snapped a crisp salute, and took off across the carrier deck. He might have walked or even run since “the goddam SOB was so hot to hit the shower”, he groused, but the farm-boy in him sent him scrambling onto the nearest tractor, the quickest way to get him back to his bunk where he intended to finish a sexy dream that had been getting right juicy.

He reached for the tractor-light switch, but the moon was near full and mightily pretty, so he didn’t bother with illumination. He and the tractor headed out, taking a short cut to the supply bay. He might have seen and avoided the circular void, plainly outlined in the moonlight, had he been paying attention to the surface ahead, but the moon was full and had a ring around it. Must be gonna’ rain, he mused. The diesel engine was warming to the task and picked up rpms as he tweaked fuel feed.
Then all Hell broke loose. The machine flipped, and he was under it, sliding along the stippled decking. His leg was gone, but that didn’t register yet. Lady Luck hadn’t completely abandoned him though. As the big machine tipped, rolled, hesitated like Wiley Coyote, then hit the water, it left him behind, bleeding, screaming, and yes, howling into the moon-lit night. The watch, mercifully alert, sounded the alarm, and James Charles Taylor began the living of a whole new life.

Fifty-eight years later, the crowds that attended the funeral home viewing came for any number of reasons. Most assumed him to be a war hero, a wounded veteran. Veteran he was, but not actually a hero, more a victim of a soap shortage in naval officers’ quarters. If he could claim fame at all, it would be because of the wound to his hand. His pinky finger disappeared in the mishap, and the entire top of his left hand was scraped away, tendons and all. The surgeons at Portsmouth Naval Hospital saw him as an opportunity to attempt a procedure that was benefiting from much speculation but lacking demonstrated proof. Their theory postulated that specific tissue types could be induced to transmogriphy if placed in operation actually performing the newly assigned task. The doctors harvested strips of skin and connected them to the attachment points from the three remaining knuckle bones to their corresponding wrist bones.

The surgical team exchanged satisfied glances over white masks, breathed, rolled tight shoulders, and resumed. The arrangement looked promising but needed a living lid. So the bare newly created tendon array took up residence under a layer of belly fat and skin, where it was sewn in situ and remained for many months while the covered strips of skin were duped into becoming tendons. In Jim’s words: “It’s a god-damned fucking nuisance walkin’ around with your god-damned fuckin’ hand sewn into your god-damned son-of-a-bitchin’ stomach.” But finally fingers began to twitch, then wiggle. When the hand was at last cut free, taking reallocated fat and skin with it, the fingers slowly began to articulate purposefully. Jim had become a hero, a guinea pig to a select group of US Navy surgeons, and to many other people, military and civilian alike, who benefited from his painful experience.

Discharged from the Navy as officially disabled, he snapped up a plum position as clerk in his home town’s state liquor store, where as a life-long teetotaler, he was an ideal candidate and served capably until retirement. James had no scholarly ambitions, and didn’t inherit his dad’s idyllic dream of tilling the Taylor Family Farm.

Although officially disabled, he continued to be an able deer and squirrel hunter, scrambling up and down rough mountain terrain, his stump patched with moleskin, cushioned in a wool stocking, and seemingly wedded to his prosthesis. Even with the prosthetic leg standing in the bedroom corner, he could get around single-footed with equal agility as many a man with two. Seven live births indeed attest to multiple varieties of prowess.

Jim Taylor was definitely a man’s man. He was born a natural storyteller, but it was in the Navy that he learned to cuss. After his accident, with its ensuing physical and psychological trauma, he patently perfected the art of embellishing his dissemination of oral tradition to near Tourette’s level. His family and friends tried to get him to clean up his speech, but his colorful vocabulary didn’t trouble customers stopping by the liquor store for a pint. He had his faults, but people are forgiving, and he was a man who was easy to like, cut of sturdy simple cloth. Men of Jim Taylor’s ilk seldom ever die alone. He was loved.

Having sired seven children under wedlock, and contributed to rumors of others about whom legitimacy is not discussed, he enjoyed dandling a passel of grand-babies on whichever knee was working best on any given day. His long-suffering second wife, sons and daughters, along with assorted grown grandchildren, themselves working on the next generation of Taylors, showed up to keep the old man company during his last days. During the time before he gave it up, his nursing home room became a temporary happy hospice, while hundreds of family and town-folk meandered in and out, paying their respects and exchanging “dad stories”.

As Jim’s ex-wife, I have plenty of “ex-stories”. I had never thought of Jim Taylor as a great man, veteran or not. To me he was the irascible spouse who seemed determined to spoil my dream of life in a peaceful green West Virginia mountain hollow. It featured a loving extended family, wholesome community, and freedom to create a romantically idealized life. I adored the farm, the people, the animals, the machines, and the march of the seasons. Always the writer, I waxed poetic about autumn color and sprouting crocus.

While we were still figuring out the mechanics of sex, things went as well as can be expected when neither party understood the concept of distaff orgasm. Indeed, I had borne three healthy babes before accidentally experiencing that ultimate mind/body experience, all by myself. Though remarkably well endowed, Jim had yet to figure out how to utilize his assets. In his defense, I was little help; I was painfully embarrassed about sex in general. I lied to my in-laws, insisting that nothing untoward had happened between Jim and me. It wasn’t until I was six months along that I finally admitted that a little something just might have indeed taken place.

Most problematical, Jim developed a mean streak. If I was winning at a card game, he would turn the table over. Though he never struck me, he routinely strapped Dale, our eldest, with his belt. The end he chose to use depended on the level of his rage. Too often the buckle end won out.
In the early spring he would turn the cattle in to graze in our yard creating a knee deep muddy mire. I bitched and moaned effectively enough that he strung up an electric fence around the house to keep cow tracks and green steamy pies off the porches and walkways to the barn lot. When the children went out to play, they faced electrified barbed wire. When I tried to warn Dale about the hot fence, Jim shut me up and waited for him to grab it. Then he enjoyed a great belly-laugh at the three-year-old’s expense, burned hand and humiliation aside.

Leaving was imperative. Eventually I realized that to leave I must arrange for work and income. The night before I was to go to Parkersburg and be tested for IQ and job aptitudes, Jim stayed awake the entire night. Every time I fell asleep, he kicked me out of bed. The floor was a long way down and hard. Too stubborn to let him win, I took the tests exactly on schedule. Sleepless, but grimly determined, I scored 155 on mechanical. Engineering had been the right place for me, to which forty years in manufacturing automation, aerospace equipment design, and medical device development later attested.

Surprisingly, I didn’t flee the hollow until I had to. Our third child, a son I named Lane Byron, was six weeks old when the casing on our water well gave out. Tap water was tainted with dirt, grass, and no doubt dung from the cattle grazing above the well head. I had our kitchen water tested, and the result came back as “not potable”. I showed Jim the test and begged for bottled water. at least for the baby. His response: “The God damned little fucking son of a bitch can drink it if I can.” The next day I took the children and left__finally. A local garment factory hired me to sew darts in women’s blouses. Lane was only two months old when I started work, and I ran home during lunch every day to nurse him. It’s a marvel that my milk didn’t curdle.

What surprised me, when I got the call that confirmed Jim’s passing, was that I felt no satisfaction in having out-lived him. What came back to me clear as sieved honey was the sweet quiet times we had shared before he was maimed and began his radical disintegration of personality. I had so appreciated his honest persona after a miserable year of putting up with arrogant Carnegie Tech engineering freshmen. Their idea of conversation was to compare the relative merits of each other’s slide rules. “Longest” won every time. I had discovered the advantage of using a round rule, a device that speeds calculation since each step need not be re-set before performing the next one, but they laughed at my silly round rule. It was a phallic issue; I lost. No wonder Jim, a handsome, sweet, down-to-earth farm boy, looked good to me that golden summer of 1955. On a high school vacation, I had been visiting a neighboring farm owned by my step-Aunt Winnie, and had made some nice memories with the farm-boy who lived across the river and through the woods. Halfway through my first year at Carnegie Tech, my father had gone bankrupt, and I completed the year by re-upping for the debt myself. My step-mother filed for divorce, and Daddy was staying in a serial progression of motel rooms, so I had no-where to go. I crawled to Aunt Winnie’s West Virginia farm, to clean house, cook, milk cows, and make commercial butter in the mornings; I learned to drive tractor, cut, tead, rake, bale hay, and work the garden in the afternoons. Evenings were for reading and writing letters to Jim. Ever since that memorable summer vacation, Jim and I had corresponded. When, months after his accident he proposed from Portsmouth Naval Hospital by air mail, I accepted. How could I say no?

We were a matched pair of walking wounded; he with his amputation rage; me with my disappointment at being forced out of engineering school for lack of funds. It’s amazing we put up with each other for as long as we did.
How could I actually grieve a divorced and adversarial husband after fifty-three bitter years apart? I don’t know the answer, but I did. I gave him my share of tears. As soon as I learned that my first love had passed from my world, all I could remember was how one summer I met a boy, and began to learn what love is all about. It was Jim who died, but I too, watched the images of our early gentle friendship flowing past, recollection of happiness long forgotten. After that last agonal breath, I picture Jim striding purposefully on two good legs toward his own tunnel of light, muttering, “Well, I’ll be god damned and go to hell__’er, make that heaven”!

__Dorothy Jeanette Martin 7/27/2013

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I forgot to put the tarp away, and morning found a dozen or so little brown birds using it as a bird bath. Last night’s rain had pooled in its folds. For me the big blue tarp had been yesterday’s play, a vehicle for dragging leaves from lawn to curb for city pickup. Now sun’s first rays conspired with daylight’s first cup of brew to warm my hands as the whole happy scene warmed my spirit.

One bird’s coloration set it apart from the others. It was light beige, graduating to a blush of peach that warmed the fat round breast; Colors often visually tease senses other than sight. It fluffed its feathers, a fine adjustment to body temperature. The downy softness mimicked the texture of a Zen watercolor.

It’s exquisite, I thought, so perfectly beautiful! A small tiara of charcoal brown topped the bird’s head, the high chroma flowing down its face, capitulating as a sharp, perfectly sculpted beak. The contrast of textures, colors and shapes spoke to whatever it is in humans that transmogrifies perception of beauty into awe. My exhale breathed a thank you, for an incarnate world so ready to express spirit as joy.

Birdie hopped and pecked, playing with the shards of ice filming the puddles. It approached my window, and in one bold flutter, lit on my windowsill, luminous eyes meeting my gaze. Then, with a cock of its head and a flurry of feathers, it was gone. Is it possible that even such a small creature might recognize and appreciate admiration? The delight of this experience was all over me, a prickling shimmer of gooseflesh. Life often serves up feasts of beauty and then, in fits of bliss and blessing, gives us vision to see and honor them.

I once witnessed such a gift at the Ohio State Fair – a botanical exhibit. It was simply a single perfect white orchid, at the apogee of its bloom, displayed against black velvet. A halogen spot coaxed the flower’s natural luminescence into a glow impossible to summon from any but a living thing. I listened: that flower enunciated purity to me with an unvoiced clarity. This beauty was too great for the sense of sight alone to perceive. I needed to hear, smell and touch it as well. This manifestation I named, “The Beauty that Teaches Love.” It was welcome to my tears – my gift.

Once I witnessed another kind of beauty through the glass wall of a hospital maternity ward. Naked under a yellow lamp, prophylactic against jaundice, the new baby boy lay sleeping on his back, confident of his place in the world, arms thrown back, legs akimbo. My son stood staring at this, his first son, his promise of forever come for a meet and greet. A big red-haired man, tall and well-muscled, with a growing-up history as a star running back, he commanded the scene. His maturation dwarfed what was actually a big newborn. The nurses had hastily draped a hospital gown over Dad’s clothing so he might enter the ward. His shoulders sloped, arms hung flaccid with awe and acceptance that such grace had touched him. He watched a long while, prayers of pride and love unspoken but written on his face. Then he turned and grinned at me through the glass, his eyes a-twinkle but liquid with unshed tears. He mouthed, “Look Mom!” I did indeed look and delighted in what I saw. I loved them both, father and son, completely.

Grief, like love, must be learned. I was getting acquainted with loss when as a five year old, enchanted with the possibilities of drama, I made a casket for my very dead pet turtle and held a reptilian funeral. Mother and I buried him under the willow sapling in our yard so he could live again someday in the life of a great weeping tree. Perhaps we are given small gifts of loss so we can learn to give way to the Great Death, when what is taken from us is what we cannot bear to lose.

Perhaps the only true measure of faith is the grace with which we accept loss, in celebration that we have lived and loved and experienced beauty. In the energy-matter push-pull that creates metaphor from the mystery of the universe, how grand that we are players in this dance of the cosmos! Occasionally we glimpse how incredibly beautiful we are! The far-flung nebulae, that make of the night sky a field of diamonds, are mirrored in infinite microcosm of ever smaller worlds that inhabit the universes of infinite diminution. “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of Glory, Lord of Love!” Beethoven heard, not with his ears full of silence, but with the music of his mind and heart. As a gift to the ages, he captured a stray string of notes and shaped it into the enchantment of his Ninth Symphony. Perhaps the silence was necessary so he could sense the music of the spirit.

With sensing ears, but lacking the deaf master’s musical facility, I heard a melody so lovely that it made all of Heaven’s angels weep. She was my daughter, God’s gifts of life, of love, and then all too soon, of death. Her small life was only a breath in, and a breath out, a single blossom buoyed on the inscrutable tides of Wisdom, which gives and takes but never fails to cherish and fulfill.

Remembering and celebrating
Melanie Ray Taylor
Born October 2, 1960
Died April 11, 1963

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The two ancient cedar trees have grown together, meeting over the front porch steps of the old house. I part them just enough to climb through. The porch floor is iffy, many of the boards rotting, some even having crumbled and fallen through tangles of spider webs into the dark abyss. Who knows what waits there? Copperheads? Black-widows? It’s safer keeping to the periphery where weight is supported by the much overbuilt footings Grandpa had fashioned out of his collection of fossils and geological finds appropriated on his travels.

The front door stands ajar. Local rowdies have long ago broken in and helped themselves to all the old furniture. Even Grandma’s rocking chair, worth nothing on the local “We buy junk; We sell antiques” market, has been carted off to who knows what oblivion. It would have at best been good for kindling, but I would love to have it just to remember her sitting and rocking, rubbing swollen knuckles on her old hurting hands, and murmuring “I wish I had every-thin’ done”. One arm of the rocker broken beyond aesthetic repair had been salvaged with a bolt, a quarter-twenty flat washer, and a length of baling wire.

The ancient bed, where several generations of Reynolds and then Martins had been conceived and ultimately delivered, is gone, leaving a large unworn rectangle in the corner. Even the old wood stove is conspicuous in its absence, leaving only a gaping maw of blackened stovepipe protruding from the wall. Nothing holds my interest in the stripped front bedroom but memories, so I head for the door that leads to the parlor.

It resists my pressure, hip shoves, and even a hard kick, but finally I’m in. Stacked up beyond are crates and boxes of electronics journals, as well as piles of individual issues that have been dumped out by the scalawags in their joyous creation of this monumental mess. My Dad, who never discarded an electronics reference source, had long before he died, stored his precious stash in the old parlor. Now his once neatly packed and stacked boxes are a metaphor for chaos. My stomach sinks. I am glad, so very glad, that he didn’t have to witness this desecration of what he had so valued.

I want to find something of personal meaning to keep and treasure. But how? Where? I’ll never be able to sort through it all. Discouraged, I pick my way across the room to the fireplace and sit on the raised hearth. I close my eyes and retreat to a place of no thought, just being__ breathing. Suddenly I’m up, slip-sliding through slick magazine covers and staggering to a spot that seems to be calling to me. I kneel and begin to dig, tossing aside volume after volume of out-of-date material that had once represented state-of-the-art. I dig all the way down to linoleum, uncovering a small red box. It’s a standard package for top-tear bank checks. I reach for it with both hands and yank off the lid. It’s mine, left from years ago when my Dad and I had collaborated on a new concept wound suction pump, and I had invented an improved mammary implant using silicone gel and Emerson & Cuming Eco-Spheres. Sweet memories come flooding back. Inside the box is a Polaroid snapshot of one of my engineering drawings speckled with red sticky dots. Each dot had called attention to a small change that was needed before the drawing could be declared finalized, ready to publish. Under the photo is a head of matured wheat that my sister, Leslie, had tucked behind my favorite piece of wall art. The painting had given me the pleasure of beauty while working at my desk, creating side by side with Daddy, thinking up wild and wacky widgets, a lifetime dream on its way to fulfillment. The wheat reminds me of a future harvest, wished for and hoped for, a gift from Leslie, the little sister I loved but hadn’t really tried yet to know, the one who was very much afraid of spiders. I wonder if she still is afraid of them.

There is no need to look further. I slip out the back door clutching my box and wondering how it was that I could have been drawn almost magically through a roomful of detritus to that small buried box of memories and dreams. There is surely more to living in a physical world than can be elucidated by rational thought alone.

__Dorothy Jeanette Martin 10/9/2012

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